Summary: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issues this guidance to manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers to protect children from hazardous exposure to lead in consumer products.1 The Commission identifies the major factors that it considers when evaluating products that contain lead, and informs the public of its experience with products that have exposed children to potentially hazardous amounts of lead.
To reduce the risk of hazardous exposure to lead, the Commission requests manufacturers to eliminate the use of lead that may be accessible to children from products used in or around households, schools, or in recreation. The Commission also recommends that, before purchasing products for resale, importers, distributors, and retailers obtain assurances from manufacturers that those products do not contain lead that may be accessible to children.
Hazard: Young children are most commonly exposed to lead in consumer products from the direct mouthing of objects, or from handling such objects and subsequent hand-to-mouth activity. The specific type and frequency of behavior that a child exposed to a product will exhibit depends on the age of the child and the characteristics and pattern of use of the product. The adverse health effects of lead poisoning in children are well-documented and may have long-lasting or permanent consequences. These effects include neurological damage, delayed mental and physical development, attention and learning deficiencies, and hearing problems. Because lead accumulates in the body, even exposures to small amounts of lead can contribute to the overall level of lead in the blood and to the subsequent risk of adverse health effects. Therefore, any unnecessary exposure of children to lead should be avoided. The scientific community generally recognizes a level of 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood as a threshold level of concern with respect to lead poisoning. To avoid exceeding that level, young children should not chronically ingest more than 15 micrograms of lead per day from consumer products.
Guidance: Under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA), 15 U.S.C. §1261(f)(1), household products that expose children to hazardous quantities of lead under reasonably foreseeable conditions of handling or use are "hazardous substances." A household product that is not intended for children but which creates such a risk of injury because it contains lead requires precautionary labeling under the Act. 15 U.S.C. §1261(p). A toy or other article intended for use by children which contains a hazardous amount of lead that is accessible for children to ingest is a banned hazardous substance. 15 U.S.C. §1261(q)(1)(B). In evaluating the potential hazard associated with products that contain lead, the Commission staff considers these major factors on a case-by-case basis: the total amount of lead contained in a product, the bioavailability of the lead, the accessibility of the lead to children, the age and foreseeable behavior of the children exposed to the product, the foreseeable duration of the exposure, and the marketing, patterns of use, and life cycle of the product.
Paint and similar surface coatings containing lead have historically been the most commonly-recognized sources of lead poisoning among the products within the Commission's jurisdiction. The Commission has, by regulation, banned (1) paint and other similar surface coatings that contain more than 0.06% lead ("lead-containing paint"), (2) toys and other articles intended for use by children that bear lead-containing paint, and (3) furniture articles for consumer use that bear lead-containing paint. 16 C.F.R. Part 1303. In recent years, however, the Commission staff has identified a number of disparate products -- some intended for use by children and others simply used in or around the household or in recreation -- that presented a risk of lead poisoning from sources other than paint. These products included vinyl miniblinds, crayons, figurines used as game pieces, and children's jewelry.
In several of these cases, the staff's determination that the products presented a risk of lead poisoning resulted in recalls or in the replacement of those products with substitutes, in addition to an agreement to discontinue the use of lead in future production. The Commission believes that, had the manufacturers of these lead-containing products acted with prudence and foresight before introducing the products into commerce, they would not have used lead at all. This in turn would have eliminated both the risk to young children and the costs and other consequences associated with the corrective actions.
The Commission urges manufacturers to eliminate lead in consumer products to avoid similar occurrences in the future. However, to avoid the possibility of a Commission enforcement action, a manufacturer who believes it necessary to use lead in a consumer product should perform the requisite analysis before distribution to determine whether the exposure to lead causes the product to be a "hazardous substance." If the product is a hazardous substance and is also a children's product, it is banned. If it is a hazardous household substance but is not intended for use by children, it requires precautionary labeling. This same type of analysis also should be performed on materials substituted for lead.
The Commission also notes that, under the FHSA, any firm that purchases a product for resale is responsible for determining whether that product contains lead and, if so, whether it is a "hazardous substance." The Commission, therefore, recommends that, prior to the acquisition or distribution of such products, importers, distributors, and retailers obtain information and data, such as analyses of chemical composition or accessibility, relevant to this determination from manufacturers, or have such evaluations conducted themselves.
Please contact Mary Toro at 301-504-7586, if you have any questions.
1This guidance is not a rule. It is intended to highlight certain obligations under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Companies should read that Act and the accompanying regulations at 16 C.F.R. Part 1500 for more detailed information. You can search the C.F.R. online to obtain this information.